Monthly Archives: February 2014

Going for Gold: Addressing Opportunities and Challenges for Volunteer Programs

I thought I would share with you a presentation that I developed that I think addresses many issues that we deal with.


Recruitment and succession planning
Staff and volunteer relations
Looking at roles that impact volunteers, clients and how to work with staff
Types of volunteers and roles (retention)
Internal and external engagement
Building partnerships both internal and external
Raising the profile through innovation
Using social media to attract different volunteers
Collaboration through team building
Using tools to measure activities and evaluate the cost
Using technology to educate volunteers, staff and patients
Working with administration and management to raise internal profile
Short term strategies:
Review existing program and supports
Gaps and opportunities
consistency and collaboration
Build a succession plan including coaching and mentorship
Take a pulse
Survey and focus groups of staff, patients, families and volunteers
Long term strategies:
Develop more intensive training for staff and volunteers to support retention and life long learning (develop skills and address multi-skilled volunteers)
Using creative approaches to touch lives of clients and the community
Develop a volunteer performance management system that aligns with the HR system to assess and strengthen volunteer retention cycle
Understand and address the “new volunteer” and expand the volunteer program to attract and retain (cross training, social networking, developing skills)to provide a community of care and innovation

Provide qualitative and quantitative data so that the organization and community understands the role of volunteer services (tell stories)

Intensify our marketing, presence and reputation as the volunteer program of choice
Increase profile and develop cross program opportunities for collaboration

Lessons to be learned from Sochi event volunteers

So here goes my Carrie Bradshaw of volunteering rant.

I was so impressed with the applause that the volunteers received right off the gate at the opening ceremonies. The athletes were cheering hard and fast for the thousands of volunteers that are helping in the games. That made me proud and helped me to reinforce why I decided to go down the career path of volunteer management and development.

I have to tell you there are days I wonder why I stay in this field, it is always taking two steps forward and one step back but during events such as this, when you are visibly seeing the volunteers everywhere, when you know these games would not happen without the volunteers, even though they had to ship them in and they were still learning as they were volunteering…it makes me proud.

So in return I thought I would talk a bit about engaging event day volunteers. I have built event day volunteer programs from scratch and I can tell you the recruitment aspect is probably the easiest. The biggest challenges is:

retaining them from recruitment to event day

keeping them from year to year


proper recognition

appropriate and timely communication

I found that over the years of running event day volunteer programs the most successful approach is to give up control. What does that mean?

The first step is to find leadership volunteers that can assist in the recruitment, training and retention of the volunteers over the weeks and months leading up to the event.

By breaking down the functions and having a dedicated group of volunteers that can lead teams of other volunteers, allows you to really communicate the proper information to the right volunteers. For example, the registration volunteers will need a different kind of training then your cheerleaders. By using a tiered approach to managing special events volunteers…it limits the amount of communication that you have to disseminate amongst the masses.

In terms of retaining volunteers prior to the event, you team leaders could be sending out updates to the volunteers weeks prior to the event, keeping them informed and excited about how the preparations are going. As well they can be your ambassadors of recruitment as you continue to fill up your spaces.

When it comes to recognition and next steps, a thank you immediately after the event is essential…not just from the CEO but also from yourself and the volunteer leader that they worked with…it makes such a difference for the next year.

Speaking of next year….how do you keep these volunteers engaged…..there are so many ways.

You can provide quarterly updates on how the event is forming…you can get some of the volunteers involved in the planning….you can provide some education and start preparing the chosen few that you think are ready to take the leap to volunteer leader.

Succession is the key to a successful event based volunteer program. Always think about tomorrow.

So back to Sochi, so far they have thanked the volunteers well before they have even started…they gave some great looking uniforms to wear and I hope that they continue to cheer them on throughout the games and give them a big thank you at the end….remember volunteering does make a difference and activities like this…and even for us in Toronto 2015…..with the right plan…the right volunteers….these events can take a life of there own

if you want any more information or need some help planning event based volunteer activities, or providing workshops on how to plan an event based volunteer activity…email me at

Build, skilled and filled

How many volunteer programs focus on developing high skilled volunteer activities?

Are you looking at :
Recruitment and succession planning
Looking at roles that impact clients and the community and how to work with staff
Types of volunteers and roles (retention)
Internal and external engagement

Do you focus your recruitment in these areas?

Have you had conversations with your leadership team to see where there are opportunities?

What is meaningful volunteer work?

Is there an opportunity to build a boutique type volunteer program on top of your standard program?

These and more questions are becoming the trend for volunteer engagement

I have added a page to this blog about a new service that I provide to address these and many trends as well as workshops that address these issues.

Take a look